Upon entering owner Leslie Spellman's Bridgewater's Pub, one immediately becomes oblivious to the 30th Street Station surroundings -- that is, until a traveling salesman brushes against you with his bloated briefcase, and you realize you are really situated in a train station and not a posh Center City eatery. A first glance at Bridgewater's menu will leave any avid restauranteur unexpectedly delighted. For those desiring traditional pub grub, New Deck Tavern is only a few blocks away. Although Bridgewater's decor is much the same as the Sansom Street locale, Chef Michael Zulli has created a menu of heavenly continental concoctions, along with a dose of down under cuisine (thankfully, sans the vegemite).

For starters, I devoured some crab poppers and alligator nuggets (the first recurrence of the Australian motif). The crab poppers($9.50) were served along with a tangy vodka spiked cocktail sauce that left me clamoring for more items to dip. The alligator nuggets ($9.50), served with a chili pepper dip, were a pleasant surprise. The highlights of the starters proved to be the kangaroo chili ($7) and the crab salad ($10). The marsupial special was highlighted by a dash of cocoa that added to the complexity of flavors. Chef Zulli's masterful skill was on display in the crab salad, as he effortlessly blended guacamole, cucumber, sesame and crab to craft a dish that contained a symphony of flavors. This signature dish was definitely reminiscent of something found on a trendy fusion menu.

The entrees at Bridgewater's once again left us in a state of utter satisfaction. The ostrich and shrimp stir fry ($15), one of the cafe's more popular dishes, was certainly cooked with an Asian influence, combining sake, ginger, and coconut rice. The duck sausage with wasabi infused mashed potatoes ($14) was really the only dish that disappointed, simply because the cointreau marmalade, with notes reminiscent of a grandmother's perfume, overpowered the sausages' own flavor. Pastry chef Michael Giovanetti ended the night on the right note, dazzling us with his scrumptious, freshly made cranberry-apple cobbler ($6).

Generally, Chef Zulli rotates the menu for each season, but there are a few mainstays, such as the ever-popular mushroom strudel that he periodically redesigns. On tap are seven stellar beer choices that also vary with the fickle mistress that is Mother Nature. Undoubtedly, the biggest draw to Bridgewater's Cafe are the prices, with the appetizers ranging from $7 to $10 and entrees between $11 and $17. For two years now, Zulli has been wowing travelers and locals alike with his innovative cuisine. Without question, Bridgewater's achieves Center City dining status in the most unexpected of locations.


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